President Donald Trump has revealed that the United States is currently developing ‘many’ super-fast hypersonic missiles and boasted that the American weapons were ‘big, powerful, lethal and fast’.
It comes after the U.S Army awarded a $2.5 billion contract to aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin to build them with the aim of having at least one ready by the end of next year.
Trump’s mention of the hypersonic missiles was dropped briefly into his national address on Wednesday as he spoke of the escalating tensions with Iran just hours after Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.
It is no secret that the U.S. has been working on developing hypersonic weapons, but Trump’s speech implied that multiple missiles were currently being built.
‘Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast,’ Trump said.
‘Under construction are many hypersonic missiles.
‘The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.’
The combination of speed, maneuverability and altitude of hypersonic missiles can make them difficult to track and intercept.
They travel at more than five times the speed of sound or about 3,853 miles per hour. Some will travel as fast as 15,000 miles per hour, according to U.S. and other Western weapons researchers, which is about 25 times as fast as modern passenger jets.
There are two primary categories of hypersonic weapons: Hypersonic glide vehicles that are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target and hypersonic cruise missiles that are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines after acquiring their target.
It is not clear what type of hypersonic weapon Trump was referring to in his remarks.
Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons don’t follow a ballistic trajectory and can maneuver en route to their destination.
The U.S., as well as China and Russia, have so far focused research and development on both categories of hypersonic weapons – both of which could carry conventional or nuclear payloads.
A hypersonic glide vehicle is boosted aloft on a rocket to heights of between 25 miles to 62 miles above the earth before detaching to glide along the upper atmosphere towards its target.
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